Innovative business ideas can come from all sorts of people, as seen today in the next European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2016 winner interview. Read about these successful project journeys, and pick up their useful tips and tricks for future applicants.
This interview looks at one of the EEPA 2016 Special Mentions, Latvian project Radam Novadam (Create for County), represented here by project coordinator Andris Cheksters. This project, which received Erasmus+ funding that was granted by Agency of International Programms for Youth in Latvia, is a competition for students with three key objectives: To generate added economic value in Latvian regions, To discover and unleash the skills and abilities of students to help them along in their careers and finally to build a new generation of socially responsible entrepreneurs.
How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?
I first heard about the EEPA competition when I was working on the project, and thought it looked like a good opportunity. We were planning to launch the project one more time and thought that should we be recognised with this award that it might help us obtain the necessary funding to continue providing this opportunity for students to get into the entrepreneurial mindset.
How did you go about preparing your application?
We actually applied quite late in June, and in Latvia the national winners are announced in July so we did not have much time to prepare. It was actually a surprise when we found out we were national winners because we did not hear anything for quite a while so just assumed that nothing had happened and forgot about the application.
What was it like to win the award and what kind of response did you receive?
It was definitely a surprise and it felt good to be promoted on a European level. We actually were surprised twice, first by being announced as national winners and again when we found out we were going to be a special mention at the SME Assembly 2016 in Bratislava! It made our work feel appreciated and recognised, which is great for our project because the student teams in the competition can also benefit from extra exposure.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work?
It was not particularly big news on a national level, but it was a big thing both for myself and all the project partners. There were several articles written about the project, and the exposure the award gives definitely helped with our credibility. I am not sure if this is a direct result of the exposure, but around the same time we also managed to secure some funding we had applied for to help continue running the competition for students.
Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?
The award has already helped in terms of scaling up the project, which really suits my vision for this project’s future. In future hopefully this project can be replicated across different European countries so that all European students and youth can start companies and use their local advantages in order to create international teams and in turn successful businesses. The project has a different structure to other ‘business idea’ competitions with a reality show style format and a focus on actual results and created economic values, so I want to bring this innovation and entrepreneurial opportunity to other European countries.
Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?
This award provides recognition which is always good for project, especially if that recognition comes from a higher and recognised entity like the European Commission. This level of validity and credibility makes it much easier to launch a project or to look for funding, which is support we need with our innovative approach.
The project will re-launch again on 6 February to continue the search for inspiring entrepreneurs!
From innovating scientists to high school founders, this year’s 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list highlights entrepreneurs making an impact combating climate change, empowering the visually impaired, and activating developing markets.
The members of this year’s 30 Under 30 Europe list are culled from over one thousand online nominations and research by a team of reporters at Forbes and across Europe. Candidates for the Social Entrepreneurs list were evaluated by a panel of experts in their fields: Jean Case of the Case Foundation; Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green; and Randall Lane of Forbes Magazine. The final list is built from the recommendations of our judges.
Here are some of notable areas the Under 30s will be impacting Europe and the world in 2017:
Making Fresh Produce Accessible
Agricool cofounders Guillaume Fourdinier, 29, and Gonzague Gru, 29, are making cities more sustainable with their Cooltainer, a storage container capable of producing fresh produce year round. The French duo recently harvested a $4.3 million funding round that will enable them to ramp up production in 2017.
Integrating New Arrivals
Ninon Demuth, 27, is using food as a catalyst for long-lasting refugee integration. She cofounded Über den Tellerrand, an organization that connects refugees with locals through refugee-led cooking classes, street food markets and cookbooks. The idea is catching hold: already they’ve spread to 25 cities in four European countries.
Inspiring Entrepreneurs of the Future
Ben and Jodie Cook, both 28, the husband and wife team behind Clever Tykes, realised that their entrepreneurial spark began in early childhood. Looking to inspire the next generation of leaders, they developed a series of children’s books featuring enterprising young role models. They scored a major partnership with the Lloyds Banking Group in late 2016 that now enables them to offer the books free of charge to every primary school across the United Kingdom.
Reducing Our Carbon Footprint
Scientist turned entrepreneur Julian Melchiorri, 29, invented the first synthetic biological leaf that mimics the work of an actual leaf. By absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting breathable oxygen, the BioSolar Leaf holds limitless possibilities from increasing air quality in cities to even potentially making life on another planet possible.
These are only a few of the trailblazers leading the way to a better future. Meet the rest of the social entrepreneurs in the full Under 30 Europe – Social Entrepreneurs List.
Are you ready to meet the winner of the Youth Essay Competition? At only 16 she is challenging us all to reconsider our thoughts on youth entrepreneurship and the opportunities offered to the younger generations to make their voices heard at the European level. Please welcome Andri Pandoura!
Andri is currently studying in her native Cyprus, but has already developed a keen interest in youth and human rights. She has further developed this interest through her membership of the Cyprus children’s parliament and plans to take it further by studying human rights law at university. Today she shares with us what drove her to participate, her thoughts on presenting at the SME Assembly 2016, where she sees the future of entrepreneurship and finally her words of wisdom for other ambitious young people.
What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?
I saw it as an opportunity to write about my interest in youth rights and voice my opinions as a young person in Europe. There is a lot of over complication, so my idea was to take a simple, even childlike approach to this topic and think about all the small steps that can lead us to something bigger. In general there are not many opportunities for those of us under 18 to participate in such competitions so I think that every time there is an opportunity like this one we should take it!
What did you think about the SME Assembly 2016?
I thought it was amazing and the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’. There was such a welcoming atmosphere and I got to speak to and interact with inspiring people who did not care that I was 16. Initially I thought that the presentation would be stressful, and honestly I was stressing about it since I found out, I thought I might even faint on stage. In the end though all the staff and other speakers really helped me to relax and feel comfortable and I just did it. I think the assembly is a great initiative as well as the competition itself and really hope it continues again next year so that others can have the same opportunity to make their voices heard.
Looking 10 years ahead from now, in 2026, what do you think entrepreneurship will be?
I don’t believe that the actual definition of entrepreneurship will change, but it will become more accessible and anyone will be able to become an entrepreneur. I hope that there will be cross-generational cooperation as we have a lot to learn from each other and this can contribute to a constant flow of innovation and ideas. Education will also continue to play a big role 10 years from now, and it will develop alongside the advancement of technology. I think entrepreneurs will be coming up with things we can’t even begin to imagine!
Alongside this I think there will be a focus on working with clients to give them what they want, for example, working with students to see what it is they want and need for their education. This in turn will hopefully lead to an increase in the number of start-ups, particularly youth ones. Start-up and SME culture will have developed and we will see more support in the form of bodies, panels and organisations designed to foster entrepreneurship.
I want to take this opportunity to say to other young people that you should not be afraid of actually trying, and that if you fail then just try again. Winning this competition has made such a difference and given me such an amazing platform which has led to other opportunities. I would not be able to say I’ve been invited to attend a session of the European Economic and Social Forum in Brussels as the guest of Cypriot delegation if I had not entered this competition, so I wanted to say thank you and encourage everyone to take all the opportunities available to you.
This is the first in our series of blog posts presenting our winner and finalists of the Youth Essay Competition, which was held as part of the SME Assembly 2016 which took place from 23-25 November 2016 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Today we get to know one of the runners up, Francesco Foglia, a journalist in European Affairs based in both Brussels and Italy. He is currently studying a Master in Business Administration and has been active on the European youth scene, through participating and winning youth competitions, and in 2015 founding a think tank on European regional policy in Italy.
Francesco shares what drove him to participate, his experience at the SME Assembly 2016 and finally where he thinks the world of SMEs and entrepreneurship will be 10 years on, in 2026.
What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?
Every time that that young people have the opportunity to attend and participate in the debate of European policies, especially the sharing of ideas and proposals, I believe that it is necessary to participate. Young people very often ask to have their voices heard but then escape the discussion. When I decided to enter the contest I was studying business law and I noticed that there was no European youth company legislation. As such, my entry was my proposal for setting up the framework, with many features that could foster youth entrepreneurship in Europe.
What did you think about the SME Assembly 2016?
The SME Assembly was a great opportunity to learn from within the world of European SMEs, the current state of affairs and future scenarios. I also took part in the inaugural lecture, held by Professor Philippe Aghion and it was really exciting. The assembly also offered useful networking moments, as well as high-level workshops.
Looking 10 years ahead from now, in 2026, what do you think entrepreneurship will be?
The world is changing and of course so is the economy and entrepreneurship. Between now and 2026, an important demographic growth is expected, which is one of the key factors that will drive change. There will be more people, more needs to be met and probably more entrepreneurs. SMEs must, therefore, be of a proper size to meet the dimensional challenges to serve more diverse markets. The internet of things and future innovations will affect the speed at which there will be this change compared to now. I hope, however, that the most dynamic economy is shared, and that it serves to reduce inequities in our communities.
Interested in Francesco’s ideas and vision? Read his Youth Essay Competition entry here.
Come back every Tuesday of this month for another profile on our top Youth Essay Competition writers!
After careful deliberation by the judges, lengthy discussions have been had and the decision has been made.
This competition was created because we wanted to know what the young people of Europe think about entrepreneurship and the opportunities available to them in their country, and the wider European Union. The responses came from across Europe and not only did they give insight into the original question, but also what is on the minds of young people in Europe today.
Life is changing fast, and they are aware that in order to keep up they too will have to change. As one participant put it: “The ‘good old days’ mentality of getting an education and landing a steady job at a big company is over”, this reflects their view of education, that it is not designed to help meet the challenges of the present but is rather based on successful models of the past. This ties into their feelings on how they are perceived, with one essayist writing: “Even if we are young it does not mean we are stupid. It does not mean we are immature. We have a lot to offer if only you give us the chance”. They are realistic, demonstrating an understanding of the media and the tendency to feature the unicorns and multi million euro successes. One contestant wrote that “there is no need for a gigantic one-billion-dollar idea or a perfect professional business plan in order to successfully start up a business”; in other words , investment is not the only measure of success.
The variety of nationalities represented by the candidates was an early indicator of the importance placed on multilingualism and openness, a common theme throughout the essays, the authors of which recognised the importance of English for business alongside other languages on their path to success. In terms of the barriers faced, ‘red tape’ and bureaucracy are things they are aware of and frustrated by. These need to be addressed urgently. Coupled with these is the fear of failing, with one writing “we are full of energy and ideas but often lack the experience, skills and expertise to implement our plans successfully”. They need reassurance that failure is not the end of the world and that it can often signal the starting point for greater success.
It is now time for us to reveal the winner:
Congratulations to Andri Pandoura!
Andri is a member of the Cyprus Children’s Parliament and has already developed an interest in human rights and advocating, which she plans to pursue in future by studying law and embarking on a career in human rights law.
The very close runners up are:
- Katie Williams, a multilingual young worker from the UK currently working in the field of International Trade.
- Francesco Foglia, an Italian journalist in European Affairs currently studying a Masters in Business Administration.
- Frici Barabas, a Romanian entrepreneur with an online business who also teaches others how to succeed in the professional online world.
Congratulations to all our finalists and be sure to stay tuned to find out more about them in forthcoming posts! We would also like to congratulate all those who submitted an essay as the standard was very high and the final results very close.
Our current entrepreneur in residence Karen Boers, co-founder & CEO of Startups.be and European Startup Network; has returned with a second blog post. This time she gives us her views on the current European education system and whether it really prepares the youth of today for the challenges they will face.
We’re always talking about the fast moving societal changes and how digitalisation is changing every aspect of our private and professional lives and will continue to do so. This is absolutely true – digital technologies have connected and empowered nearly every citizen on earth. After the industrial revolution, this trend could very well be the paving the way for different societal and economical models, which in their turn could lead to severe power shifts from the happy few, to the well-connected within the next decade.
Some very striking images have been circulating social media recently, showing the differences between what we called a ‘telephone’ a century ago and today, and the huge difference between what we called a ‘vehicle’ (i.e. horse & carriage) and modern cars and transport. There was also a comparison between what a classroom looked like 150 years ago – and its modern equivalent, it is unchanged!
We are preparing today’s youngsters for their future in very much the same way we have been preparing labourers to go into the factories for the past decades. We are training them to be silent, listen carefully and not question orders but rather execute them in the efficient, large-scale way we have grown accustomed to. We are training them to think hierarchically and obey – day after day and year after year. The reason being this is the way our society was structured for many years and how our economies thrived in the mass production age.
But now we are facing different challenges. Mass production is suffering in the western economies. Hierarchical icons are being disrupted by flexible, agile businesses. Collaboration, creativity and the ability to change are becoming ever more dominant in the new business paradigms, and it’s clear that there is no way back. Millennials are already exhibiting signs of not caring too much about steady careers, future-proof choices or life-long guarantees. They think very differently about ownership, citizenship, sharing, learning and professional careers. They are self-organising, always connected and pay it forward much more than previous generations.
There is no way that the education that we are currently providing Generation Z youngsters is preparing them properly for what is ahead, and there is growing consensus that future generations might not put up with the inertia of the current system, eroding it from the inside out. The information overload is growing, and we need to urgently transition into a system that educates youngsters to deal with that, to find their way in an ever-connected and saturated network of information sources, opinions and potential expertise. Self-learning and life-long learning are gaining in importance. Additional skills are often acquired outside of the school system at present, through volunteer programs and alternative schooling. Learning how to learn is therefore growing inherently more important than any kind of knowledge transfer.
I would not argue for a total disruption of our school system, though. Europe has been on the frontlines of (free) quality education, equal opportunities for all and innovation for a long time. Let’s now make sure Europe initiates a power shift in traditional education, slowly steering the heavy tanker towards a coaching environment, with expert inputs from all societal angles, project and applied learning and a wide range of soft skills on top of purely academic knowledge transfer. That way I am sure we will keep nurturing generations of renowned business and academic leaders, as well as a flexible and future-proof workforce.
Read Karen’s last blog post: Failing is not contagious, but success is
The deadline for submissions of September 2 is now past. Over the past months we have received an impressive number of high quality submissions from every corner of Europe, in which you have shared your ideas about how the EU can encourage young entrepreneurship. We were very impressed with the standard of work submitted and we would like to thank to all Youth Essay competition participants.
Now the competition jury is faced with the challenging task of selecting the winning entries. Only the top three will be selected, and these winners will be announced by the first week of October. These three candidates will then have to prepare a short presentation of themselves and their submission by the 16th of October. If you are among the winners you will be given further instructions and information after the announcement.
These three winners will be promoted across all SME social media channels during the last two weeks of October, which we recommend you follow so you can keep track of all news, updates and coverage.
Finally, the overall winner will be invited to the SME Assembly in Bratislava in November (23-25), to present his/her essay at the event. Before the event the winner will receive special training in preparation for the event and the presentation. The other two winners will also be featured; their presentations will be broadcast on screens during the event.
We would love to share your news, photos and updates on our social media which can be done by tagging us or submitting content for publication (for example the ‘We@Work’ posts on Instagram, see an example here). We also want to see other people you think should be featured on our accounts so be sure to nominate others! If you have any questions about content sharing and promotion please do not hesitate to get in touch.
MBA students in Amsterdam and Brussels were asked for their views on the disadvantages faced by various groups of entrepreneurs: women entrepreneurs, disabled entrepreneurs, migrant entrepreneurs and others, with some surprising feedback.
On women entrepreneurs
Suzanne from Slovenia is a fashion major. “According to Eurostat, women account for around 60 % of MBA students and it’s even higher in my country, so right now the majority of young people entering business are women. Our real challenge is still the traditional bias against women in business but we have the same access to resources so I don’t see the problem.”
Houng, from Vietnam and planning on a business career in luxury goods, added, “Women are generally better educated than our male contemporaries, we have better interpersonal skills and have a lower feeling of entitlement. Perhaps it is males who are now ‘disadvantaged’.”
Hans from the Netherlands reluctantly agreed. “My experience is that women are generally better placed in terms of raising finance as there are so many lenders who only lend to women. And women are now entering every field, even those traditional male-orientated ones like construction. They’re competing on a level playing field.”
On being a foreigner
Marko from Estonia is planning on starting a business in the Netherlands. “The biggest challenge of all is the language. If you can’t read, write and speak the language then it is really difficult to cope with the official rules and regulations. In my own country this wouldn’t be a problem, but here I have to rely on my partner and her father.”
Arati from India finds the challenge is cultural. “Being a woman is not the issue but being Indian presents problems. With people my age they don’t care that I’m brown and culturally exotic, but when I have to talk to the government agencies I feel very excluded.”
Omar, who was born in Belgium of Moroccan parents, agreed. “There are still a lot of cultural and even racial issues with the older people. I come from Brussels and there is a large Moroccan community to support me but getting to see Belgium customers can be a real challenge, especially after the terrorist attacks.”
Adan, a Syrian who has been granted asylum in Belgium and is working his way through college, had a slightly different story. “I’m a refugee and there is very little support from the state, and the job I’ve got is the type the locals wouldn’t do but it means I have a competitive advantage. I don’t think I’ll be able to start a business here until I can speak French fluently but even then the locals don’t trust us and I get hassled all the time because I’m Syrian.”
On being disabled
Manon from Belgium uses a wheelchair after a car accident five years ago. “Wheelchair access is the biggest barrier to a business career. This is the first business school where I’ve had easy access and that means I can get the sort of education that I need to be successful. All new buildings have such access of course but I still can’t get into some offices. I don’t need special conditions except I do need things to be at my height.”
All the students had a common theme: being an entrepreneur is about doing what you can with what you have rather than expecting special treatment. The challenges and barriers they discussed were all surmountable and most were based on interpersonal behaviour rather than real difficulties. Of course, there are many other people who would disagree with them, and some interesting perspectives can be found at the following links.
Photo credit: ©iStock/julie514
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Do you have a bright idea about what the EU could do to help more young people become entrepreneurs? Would you like the opportunity to share your thoughts with policymakers and entrepreneurs on a European stage?
European SME Week, under the patronage of the European Commissioner for Single Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, has launched a youth essay contest aimed at 16-25 year olds across Europe.
Write an essay of no more than 2,500 words under the heading: “What can the EU do to encourage more young people to become entrepreneurs?” and you could be in with a chance of getting your voice heard on one of Europe’s most pressing economic questions.
The essay competition is part of European SME Week, an annual pan-European campaign to promote entrepreneurship in Europe. The flagship events of the Week are the SME Assembly and the European Enterprise Promotion Awards Ceremony.
The winner of the essay competition will receive an all expenses paid trip* to the SME Assembly in Bratislava, Slovakia, in November, where they will present their prize-winning entry before an audience of over 600 delegates from the world of enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Submissions are due by 2 September, 2016 and winners will be announced in Brussels in November. The rules and conditions can be found below.
And spread the news! Download the flyer and share details of the competition with your friends and on social media.
- The competition is open to all 16 to 25 year olds from European Member States or COSME partners countries (see the list)
- Essays must not exceed 2,500 words in length.
- All essays must be in English.
- Only one entry per applicant.
- The deadline for submissions is 2 September, 2016.
- The winners will be announced in November ahead of SME Week.
- An all expenses paid trip* to the SME Assembly in Bratislava, Slovakia, to present your essay to 600+ Assembly delegates
- Presentation training before delivering your work live on stage at the SME Assembly.
2nd and 3rd prize:
- A video of you presenting your essay will be streamed on the event wall at the SME Assembly.
All winners will receive promotion of their essays across SME Week social media channels.
Need more info?
* All travel and accommodation costs to and from Bratislava, Slovakia will be covered under the 1st prize.